Updated Jun 23, 2021 - World

U.K. denies Russia fired warning shots at destroyer in Black Sea

HMS Defender
The HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast on June 18. Photo: Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images

Russia's defense ministry claimed Wednesday that a Russian warship and fighter jet fired "warning" shots at the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender destroyer for encroaching on waters near Crimea in the Black Sea.

The latest: The U.K.'s ministry of defense disputed that any warning shots were fired, saying in a statement, "We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity."

  • "No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path," the statement said.
  • "The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law."

Why it matters: It would be the first time since the Cold War that Russia has used live ammunition to deter a NATO vessel, according to AP.

  • Russia has frequently accused NATO of performing "destabilizing" operations in the Black Sea, despite the fact that NATO members Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria all have territorial claims to its waters.
  • Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has conducted extensive military exercises in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy by choking off shipping lanes.

The state of play: Russia's defense ministry said the British destroyer left the area after warning shots by a Russian warship and bombing along its path by an Su-24 attack aircraft.

  • Sergei Tsekov, a senator for the legislature of Crimea, called the British warship's movements "a flagrant violation of international norms and standards," warning that it could "provoke a serious conflict," according to state media.
  • The Russian defense ministry said it summoned the British embassy's military attache after the incident.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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